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Some NFL owners support ‘tough suspension,’ wary of forcing out Snyder

Daniel Snyder has ceded control of the Commanders’ day-to-day operations to his wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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ATLANTA — Several NFL team owners said they would support a significant suspension by the league of Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder if allegations of sexual harassment and financial impropriety against him and the team are substantiated.

But despite growing displeasure with a string of controversies that began nearly two years ago, the owners said no meaningful steps have been taken toward making a push to remove Snyder from ownership of his franchise.

Snyder has denied all allegations against him.

“There’s certainly concern,” said one owner who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “There’s anger. But there’s quite a difference between wishing he was gone and taking steps to force him out.”

That owner and others said they would support the league taking significant disciplinary action against Snyder if an investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White corroborates the allegations.

“It all depends on the report,” the owner said. “We’ll have to see. I would think a tough suspension could be in order.”

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Two other owners said they were not aware of any efforts to gauge support for attempting to force Snyder to sell his franchise. Such a move would require 24 votes among the 32 teams.

“If that’s happening, no one has asked for my vote,” one said.

Another said: “I don’t think that’s accurate.”

Asked whether the owners could reach the point of attempting to oust Snyder from ownership if White’s report substantiates the allegations against him, that owner said, “I don’t know.”

While not ruling out the possibility, multiple owners cited the legal complications of such an attempt, expressing the belief that Snyder would go to great lengths to fight any such effort.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he was unaware of any effort by the owners aimed at removing Snyder.

“I’m not aware of that at all,” Goodell said at a news conference following Tuesday’s meeting. “I don’t respond much to speculation, particularly one that I don’t know has any fact basis.”

Tuesday’s comments follow reports in recent months of increasing unrest among NFL owners about Snyder. An owner told USA Today last weekend that owners are “counting votes” regarding a possible effort to remove Snyder.

The league will make a determination about potential discipline once White’s investigation is completed, Goodell said.

“Obviously, I think we’ve taken all of the allegations seriously,” he said. “We’ll look at them, and we’ll see if there’s any fact basis to any of those. But we certainly will treat those all seriously, and we’ll deal with that once we know better.”

Goodell acknowledged that the owners have opinions about the matter, adding, “I’ve often said to everyone, including this group, ‘Let’s wait to get the facts.’ ”

White’s investigation of Snyder and the Commanders was launched in the wake of allegations made during a Feb. 3 congressional roundtable. Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, was among six former employees who appeared on Capitol Hill to speak about their experiences working for the team as the panel investigates its workplace culture and the NFL’s handling of allegations of pervasive sexual misconduct at the franchise. She told members of Congress that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo.

Snyder called the accusations made directly against him “outright lies.”

Congress details allegations of Commanders’ ‘unlawful’ conduct to FTC

White also is looking into allegations of financial improprieties that were detailed in a 20-page letter sent by Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to the Federal Trade Commission. The committee’s letter detailed allegations made by Jason Friedman, a former vice president of sales and customer service who worked for the team for 24 years. According to the letter, Friedman accused the team of withholding as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders and also hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners.

The Commanders have denied committing any financial improprieties, writing in a letter to the FTC that the allegations are “baseless” and asserting that “no investigation is warranted.”

A partner in the New York office of law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, White also oversaw the NFL’s investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct against former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. She is a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Her investigation of Richardson concluded there was no information to discredit the claims made against him. The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million in 2018, and he sold the franchise to current owner David Tepper.

The NFL has said it intends to make the findings of White’s investigation public.

The offices of attorneys general Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia and Karl A. Racine (D) of the District of Columbia have announced they are conducting their own investigations.

Following a previous investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson of sexual harassment allegations within the organization, the NFL announced in July that the team had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibilities for the franchise’s day-to-day operations for an unspecified period.

Tanya Snyder has represented the team at league meetings since then, but she did not attend this one after testing positive for the coronavirus Tuesday morning, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Nicki Jhabvala in Washington contributed to this report.

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